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Potential survivability of prehospital injury deaths in New Zealand: a cross-sectional study

Abstract

Introduction Acknowledging a notable gap in available evidence, this study aimed to assess the survivability of prehospital injury deaths in New Zealand.

Methods A cross-sectional review of prehospital injury death postmortems (PM) undertaken during 2009–2012. Deaths without physical injuries (eg, drownings, suffocations, poisonings), where there was an incomplete body, or insufficient information in the PM, were excluded. Documented injuries were scored using the AIS and an ISS derived. Cases were classified as survivable (ISS <25), potentially survivable (ISS 25–49) and non-survivable (ISS >49).

Results Of the 1796 cases able to be ISS scored, 11% (n=193) had injuries classified as survivable, 28% (n=501) potentially survivable and 61% (n=1102) non-survivable. There were significant differences in survivability by age (p=0.017) and intent (p<0.0001). No difference in survivability was observed by sex, ethnicity, day of week, seasonality or distance to advanced-level hospital care. ‘Non-survivable’ injuries occurred more commonly among those with multiple injuries, transport-related injuries and aged 15–29 year. The majority of ‘survivable’ cases were deceased when found. Among those alive when found, around half had received either emergency medical services (EMS) or bystander care. One in five survivable cases were classified as having delays in receiving care.

Discussion In New Zealand, the majority of injured people who die before reaching hospital do so from non-survivable injuries. More than one third have either survivable or potentially survivable injuries, suggesting an increased need for appropriate bystander first aid, timeliness of EMS care and access to advanced-level hospital care.

  • trauma systems
  • prehospital
  • mortality
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